M.E. has been described as “an often-debilitating disease” that has a prevalence close to one percent worldwide which would equate to around 52,000 people in Ireland or roughly the population of the county of Waterford (Bonilla, H. et al., 2023)
With the number of people with M.E. / CFS on the rise following long-COVID, it is estimated that around 45% of people with long-COVID will go onto develop M.E./CFS (Bonilla, H. et al., 2023), it is vital that we put more resources into understanding and treating these two life-altering conditions. Both conditions have similar key symptoms such as fatigue, Post-exertional malaise and/or fatigue (PEM) and pain in common and seem to be more common in women than men.
M.E., which is often diagnosed under the name Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), usually starts after a viral illness. It is recognised as a neurological condition by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O) and has been said to be an invisible illness which has proven very difficult to diagnose so sufferers often face difficulties getting support and treatment
When our bodies are attacked by a virus eg COVID-19, it causes symptoms, for example, tiredness, shortness of breath, fever and muscle aches for a short period of time and then hopefully leaves. But in certain cases, even when all signs of the virus seem to have vanished, some people, a disproportionate number of them female, continue to report symptoms such as: brain-fog, shortness of breath, heart and kidney issues. These long-term symptoms are not confined to COVID-19; there have also been reports of people going on to develop an ME/CFS-like illness following other infections such as Ebola, Epstein-Barr, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease (Yale School of Medicine, 2022).
It is not known how many people have long-COVID in Ireland but the WHO has estimated that 8-10% of those who had COVID-19, will go onto develop it (WHO, 2022).
There is currently no blood test to detect either M.E. / CFS or long-COVID, and a large number of symptoms associated with long-COVID (Long Covid Ireland, 2023) and M.E. / CFS which can change day to day basis, the conditions can be very difficult to diagnose.
The government needs to recognise the need for more resources to be allocated to neurological conditions and post-infectious chronic illnesses such as M.E. / CFS and long-COVID, and invest in more research into the prevalence, causes and possible treatments to a condition that has been “largely overlooked and even questioned” for decades (Yale School of Medicine, 2022).
Bonilla, H. et al. (2023) “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is common in post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC): Results from a post-COVID-19 multidisciplinary clinic.” Frontiers in neurology 14 (1090747). Available at: doi:10.3389/fneur.2023.1090747
Long Covid Ireland (2023) “Getting Better, together”, Available at: https://www.longcovidireland.org/what-is-long-covid
ME Advocates (2023) “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) Diagnosis & Management Information for Doctors & Healthcare Providers”, Available at: https://meadvocatesireland.blogspot.com/2023/05/myalgic-encephalomyelitis-me-diagnosis.html?fbclid=IwAR3lhD-FQXi_TKwjZxzYMRnQYvMCf75JtgHuXgUULWJYuL3I-uXM5HSrt9c
ME Association (2022) “Long COVID and ME/CFS – Are they the same? Available at: https://meassociation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/LONG-COVID-AND-MECFS-ARE-THEY-THE-SAME-MAY-2022.pdf
WHO (2022) “Rehabilitation, recognition and research needed for people living with long COVID: new WHO/Europe factsheet”, Available at: https://www.who.int/europe/news/item/10-10-2022-rehabilitation–recognition-and-research-needed-for-people-living-with-long-covid–new-who-europe-factsheet
Yale School of Medicine (2022) “Will Long COVID Research Provide Answers for Poorly Understood Diseases Like ME/CFS?” Available at: https://medicine.yale.edu/news-article/will-long-covid-research-provide-answers-for-poorly-understood-ailments-like-chronic-fatigue/